IF YOU see a “couch on wheels” or two shuttling around Portland give them a wave – they are part of the new Cycling Without Age program.
Two trishaws – officially known as Triobikes – arrived recently and are being ridden by volunteers or volunteers-in-training who want to share the joy of getting outdoors, visiting nice places or places with memories and sharing conversation with passengers.
Passionate Portland cycling enthusiast Michelle Simons set the program in motion last year and joined the international network before creating a chapter of local committee members and applying and receiving funding from multiple sources.
“One of my first passengers last week was 94-year-old Joan,” Ms Simons said.
“She told me how she last rode a bike when she was 64, she had never ridden with a helmet and then proceeded to tell us how she used to fix her own punctures by putting the tube in water and looking for the bubbles.
“I was shocked to (later learn) that Joan had severe dementia: she was so lucid on the bike.”
The group now has 12 bicycle “pilots” in training, and they are working with Harbourside Lodge, Seaview House, Kyeema Support Services, Kurrajong, and Heywood Senior Citizens to provide bike rides to people who are elderly, less mobile, disabled or who would just like to feel the wind in their hair.
“We are hoping to develop further relationships with other agencies and ensure the full utilisation of the program,” Ms Simons added; she hopes the bikes will eventually be used most days a week when the weather is fine.
South West TAFE VCAL students are also expected to get involved with riding as well as helping administer the project.
The bikes are e-assisted (electric) and have seven gears, and they can carry people weighing up to 250kg in total.
Their maximum speed when carrying passengers is 10 to 12km/h, passengers wear seatbelts, and pilots and passengers wear helmets.
Extra pilots are being sought and drivers are being encouraged to give cyclists “our fair share of the road” when they see them out.
“Our first route will be from the water tower down to the foreshore area, Nuns’ Beach and the Lee Breakwater and along the path on the Ploughed Field. Over time we will add routes,” Ms Simons said.
The program will be officially launched at a high tea at the Portland Botanic Gardens on Sunday, March 14.
For more information about the program and to book tickets to the high tea phone or message 0407 227 463.